UK ad watchdog rejects complaint against William Hill

The ASA has previously said that use of retired footballers may be allowed.
The ASA has previously said that use of retired footballers may be allowed.

The ruling suggests that the use of retired football players does not breach ad rules.

UK.- The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has rejected a complaint against William Hill over a Twitter ad featuring former footballer Robbie Savage. It has ruled that Savage’s inclusion in the post, talking about Leeds United’s chances of relegation, did not appeal to under-18s.

The ad had been identified using the ASA’s Active Ad Monitoring system, which uses AI to identify possible breaches of advertising regulations. Posted on February 10, it featured the William Hill logo and the BeGambleAware. It ended with text that read “It’s who you play with. William Hill”.

William Hill said the ad had been targeted at 25 to 49 year olds who followed the Leeds United and Sky Sports Twitter (X) accounts. It said it conducts “thorough analysis” of the personalities it uses in its ads with regular reviews. It had concluded that Savage does not appeal to under-18s as he retired several years ago and hasn’t played for a high-level club for 15 years or for a national team since 2004.

Moreover, only 0.1 per cent of Savage’s Twitter followers were under the age of 18, and Savage is “now known for punditry”, putting him in the ‘low risk’ category for potential appeal to minors under CAP guidance.

The ASA agreed, noting that Savage’s appearances in the media are not targeted at under 18s. It noted that BT Sports Score and BBC Radio 5 have largely adult audiences and that a tone of a 2021 BBC Three documentary also aimed at adults. The ASA also took into account the fact that Savage does not have a public profile on Snapchat, TikTok or Twitch.

The ASA has not categorically stated that retired football players are suitable for use in ads, taking the view that operators must analyse each case. When the new gambling ad regulations were introduced it said only that “retired or lower-league players may be allowed”.

However, in February, it rejected complaints about the use of former footballers Peter Crouch and Micah Richards in adverts for Sky Bet and Paddy Power respectively. Crouch appeared in two TV ads for Paddy Power in November and recorded an opera album for the brand.

These rulings contrast with ASA’s decisions on adverts featuring current players. Last week, it warned Hillside Sports, the company behind bet365, over a Twitter advert featuring Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka. It told the operator not to use people that appeal to under-18s.

The operator had retweeted a video posted on Sky Sports Premier League‘s Twitter account. In-video text read “Granit Xhaka pulled out this stunning finish last season in Arsenal vs Man United” before footage of the footballer taking a corner shot. The bet365 logo appeared, and then the video cut to Xhaka scoring a goal against Manchester United in the 2022/23 season.

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